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Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech Next Week Is a Mistake

Romney is reportedly planning to give a “significant” foreign policy address at VMI next Monday. Jennifer Rubin lays out what some hawks want to hear from him:

Romney, in making this case, is explaining how Obama has made us more vulnerable and offering a rebuttal to the notion that he’s going to be reckless or start a bunch of wars. Now is not the time to sound defensive, but he can surely stress the point that recklessness is seen in lack of preparation, not acute awareness of our threats.

One of Romney’s persistent blind spots is exactly this belief that over-hyping, inflating, and inventing threats represent an “acute awareness” of threats to the U.S. On the contrary, the impulse to overstate foreign threats badly distorts Romney’s ability to judge what a prudent response to them should be. Political incentives drive Romney to claim that the administration is neglecting national security whether it is or not, but ideological and intra-party constraints also compel him to describe this in terms of insufficient aggressiveness and activism. The obvious charge to make against Obama is that he was too activist in Libya and too willing to resort to the use of force, but that is a charge Romney cannot make without blatantly contradicting his previous positions and sending his hawkish supporters into a panic.

So instead he insists that the cruel and pointless sanctions policy Obama has pursued against Iran is not harsh and punitive enough, and he complains that the completely defensible reluctance to become ensnared in Syria’s civil war represents some sort of failure rather than a wise avoidance of another unnecessary foreign commitment. To the extent that he has genuine disagreements on policy, he has displayed recklessness and seems eager to provoke other governments to no purpose. If Romney restates these views next week, he will remind the public once again that he has poor judgment and would not conduct foreign policy very well.

The decision to give yet another foreign policy speech at this stage in the election is strange. Romney gave a terrible speech at the VFW convention before he left for Europe, and then in Poland he gave a completely forgettable speech. His convention acceptance speech touched on foreign policy issues in passing, and what he had to say there was almost entirely boilerplate. If Monday’s speech is anything like his recent almost unanimously ridiculed op-ed, Romney would be better off saying nothing at all. Romney finally has some momentum in the election, and he is preparing to squander it to placate people in his own coalition who will vote for him no matter what happens.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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